Hiram Crespo's Blog

May 23, 2019

Epicurean Economics and a Few Updates

I apologize that it's been a long time since my last update. I have been involved in developing the beginnings of an Epicurean online business--The Twentiers--as part of a project where I've decided to focus my content this year on exploring Epicurean economics and ideas around self-sufficiency. Our main economics source is Philodemus of Gadara' scroll On the art of property management. I will continue to write more on this subject as the project evolves, so please subscribe to my blog if this interest you.

Vintage Books--which is now a division of Penguin Random House--will be publishing a book either in the fall of this year or early next year titled How to Live a Good Life. The book will include approximately 15 chapters on diverse religions and philosophies as practiced by people today. It has already received a brief mention by Publishers Weekly. I was invited to write the chapter on Epicureanism, so be on the lookout for the book! This was, to me, a great privilege, as I'm likely to be the only contributor who is non-academic and not a member of clergy, and the inclusion of Epicurean philosophy signals that there has recently been an increase in visibility for our tradition. In a blog titled Seven reasons why we need Epicurean content creators, I recently wrote:

Many of the academic sources and interpreters of Epicurean philosophy are either indirect or hostile, and some online platforms have niches with similar attitudes. The subreddits /atheism and /philosophy have at times removed Epicurean content arbitrarily, rather than allow for an open market of ideas–sometimes relenting only after some level of activism on our part. Martha Nussbaum–one of the main contemporary interpreters of Epicurean sources in academia–has been notorious in her anti-Epicurean bias. She has said that Stoics and Aristotelians are superior to the Epicureans–whom she described as “parasitic” on the rest of the world–, that Seneca was “an advance of major proportions” over the Epicureans, and has even claimed that Epicureanism is not a philosophy. This all points to a need to have more people presenting EP on its own terms, both in our own niches and elsewhere.


Also, a few years ago Dara Fogel, author of The Epicurean Manifesto, complained that academics have been treating philosophy as a study of the history of itself, rendering it impractical, useless, sterile, and irrelevant. For all these reasons, our inclusion in a book about living philosophies and religions that are practiced today feels like a bit of a paradigm shift.

I frequently write detailed reviews of great books that are directly or indirectly relevant to Epicurean ideas, like Michel Onfray’s Hedonist Manifesto, or Thomas Nail's Ontology of Motion. Recently, a new indirect source for Epicurean philosophy was unearthed and translated into English by our friends from the Epicurean Gardens in Greece titled Porphyry’s Epistle to Marcella.

After a long hiatus, the Society of Friends of Epicurus has published a new educational video on its YouTube channel based on Epicurus' lecture against the use of empty words. If you like the content, please subscribe to SoFE on YouTube, and also please consider supporting me on Patreon!
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Published on May 23, 2019 07:31 Tags: book, epicurean, epicurus, new, philosophy

June 18, 2017

Some Updates

There have been a few developments in the world of Epicurean philosophy. I have a new Spanish-language blog for El Nuevo Día, the most widely-read daily newspaper in Puerto Rico. It is titled Arte de vivir and its initial article was written on the fifth anniversary of the imprisonment of Raif Badawi, and in solidarity with secularism and free expression in the Middle East. Raif received a public lashing as a result of his criticism of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

I've long wanted to connect the French-language hedonist tradition with the English-language work we're doing. I finally read a book by Michel Onfray and published an introduction to his counter-history of philosophy discourse in English. Michel is a celebrity philosopher in France, the founder of the Université Populaire de Caen, and a fierce advocate of retelling a philosophical narrative from the perspective of the "friends of Epicurus, and the enemies of Plato". He argues that historiography is a form of ideological warfare, and that the scientific worldview has been under attack since antiquity.

The Society of Friends of Epicurus has put together a few educational videos on its youtube channel on the canon, on friendship, on choices and avoidances, and other aspects of the teaching. The videos are meant to clearly explain the teaching, Please subscribe to our youtube channel!
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Published on June 18, 2017 07:00 Tags: blogs, epicurus, literature, philosophy

October 5, 2016

Six Things I Learned After Writing “Tending the Epicurean Garden”

This month of October marks the 2-year anniversary of the “official” publication of my book (review here), although the book had been available on Amazon prior to that date. I wrote the bulk of the content for Tending the Epicurean Garden during the year 2013, but in the years since I have not ceased to learn about philosophy and about the many subjects I discussed in TtEG. For some time, I’ve wanted to give my readers a clear learning path for after they’re done reading my book, and this occasion is as good as any, so here are six important things I’ve learned about Epicurean philosophy after writing Tending the Epicurean Garden.

1. The Philodemus Series

I delved into the reading of the scrolls from the villa of Herculaneum shortly after completing my book. The scrolls are the remnants that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 of Common Era. They are a treasure trove of ancient humanist wisdom, the Humanist Nag Hammadi. In one of the scrolls, for instance, the Scholarch Polystratus anticipates the contemporary work of Sam Harris by over 22 centuries: he lays out sober and robust arguments for a hedonist moral realism based on theories of physics and ethics laid out by Epicurus in his Epistle to Herodotus. In this scroll he battled cultural and moral relativism, and superstition, and also defended the scientific study of nature as essential for ethics, decency and morality.

Epicurus’ teachings against the use of empty words help us to better understand Philodemus’ Rhetorica and Methods of Inference, and in general just help us to reason more clearly. The scroll about property management provides useful guidance for our life-long self-sufficiency projects, but the most important scroll in my view, and the greatest masterpiece of humanist literature from Herculaneum has to be the one On Death, which catalogues all the logical and common-sense repercussions of our teaching that death is nothing to us.

2. Norman DeWitt is key to understanding Epicurean philosophy on its own terms. He is particularly good at explaining the Canon (epistemology) and the importance of the doctrine of pleasure as the end. Read his Philosophy for the Millions pamphlet, which narrates and gives some perspective on the historical battle between the naturalist philosophy of the scientists and the Platonic philosophy of the mystics and charlatans.

3. Frances Wright wrote the great Epicurean masterpiece in the English language A Few Days in Athens. See a detailed review here.

4. Neuroscience was a field of great interest to Epicurean philosophy from the onset. Epicurus, in his speech on Moral Development, discussed how the “atomic structure” of the brain can be changed through certain practices (like repetition of certain teachings), and how as part of our moral development, we must take ownership of the content of our brains and our characters. Later on, Lucretius discussed neural pathways in his On the Nature of Things. It is clear that, as Epicureans, we are responsible for the steady and diligent cultivation of our brains in the same way that athletes are responsible for the cultivation of their bodies.

5. Natural community (family, tribe, circle of friends) is conceived as distinct from Platonic (or imagined) communities (nations, races, ethnicities, etc.) Just as we learn in Philodemus that there is a natural measure of wealth (that corresponds with ensuring that we can satisfy our natural and necessary desires), our friends from the Las Indias Coop, while reasoning about the world from an Epicurean perspective, also argued that there is a natural (measure of) community, and even cite modern research to separate natural from Platonic communities.

I use the word “measure” here to refer specifically to the Dunbar number (almost 150), which indicates how many real, significant relationships humans are cognitively able to have. Natural selection strongly favors this because our ancestors evolved in tribes, which protected individuals from weather, wild beasts, and other dangers, and also secured access to food sources and transferred traditional wisdom about where to find them. There’s other research that demonstrates that isolation is a health risk on par with obesity and smoking, so that the lone-wolf “ideal” is also unhealthy and unnatural.

There’s simply no question that humans are tribal by nature. In Epicurus, the philos ideal (devoted friendship with our intellectual kin) is considered the healthiest way to build our tribe and channel our social instinct.

6. The Cyrenaics were a philosophical Atlantis, and paved the way for Epicurean ethics just as Democritus and Leucippus paved the way for physics.

Further Reading:

Tending the Epicurean Garden – The Humanist Review

Elemental Epicureanism
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Published on October 05, 2016 07:03 Tags: book, epicurean, philosophy

August 16, 2015

Contributing Blogger at Partially Examined Life

In recent months, I've joined PEL as one of its bloggers. Some of my initial pieces were introductory blogs about Epicurus' Four Cures and the Herculaneum scrolls. There have also been comparisons between Epicurean and Taoist philosophies, a piece on the delightful comedic literature of Lucian of Samosata, and a piece that presents the hypothesis that religion may be comparable to play activity among social species.

Please visit the PEL site and share the links!
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Published on August 16, 2015 07:18 Tags: blog, comedy, epicurus, herculaneum, literature, philosophy, tao

May 8, 2015

Society of Epicurus publishes Epítome

According to Norman DeWitt, ancient Epicureans used to study a Little Epitome, which is extant today as the Letter to Herodotus, and would later on graduate to the Big Epitome for which, he suggests, Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura was used although some other volume must have been used during the first couple of centuries prior to Lucretius.

In celebration of this tradition and to encourage and facilitate the systematic study of its writings in Spain and Latin America, the Society of Friends of Epicurus recently released a Spanish-language Epítome: Escrituras Epicúreas, a collection of the ancient writings of our tradition with commentary and a study guide by Hiram Crespo, author of Tending the Epicurean Garden (Humanist Press, 2014).

The work is written in chapter and verse format, both for ease of reference and to dignify the considerable historical value of its content. It includes a Spanish translation of Principal Doctrines, Vatican Sayings and the Epistles to Moeneceus, Pythocles and Herodotus, in addition to a summarized chronicle of the lives of the Scholarchs and great masters of the tradition up to Philodemus of Gadara, as well as the Spanish translation of nine reasonings based on the surviving fragments of the Herculaneum Scrolls.

The book is available from Amazon, or directly from CreateSpace.
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Published on May 08, 2015 19:54 Tags: book, epicurean, epicurus, epitome, humanism, philosophy, scriptures, writings

May 6, 2015

FullScream Book Review

A new book review was just published by blogger Tom Church under the title HIRAM CRESPO ON TENDING THE EPICUREAN GARDEN: PLEASURE AND HEDONISM. In it, he covers some of the basic definitions used in our science of happiness. His blog, Screams, blends aesthetics, the arts, history and philosophy and is part of FullScream.com, a "creative studio that specializes in TV branding, motion design, and fashion video production".
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Published on May 06, 2015 13:27 Tags: art, book, epicurus, philosophy, review

May 5, 2015

Interview with DB and Piece for The Humanist

I was recently interviewed, together with a fellow member of the Society of Friends of Epicurus, for Decisiones Bambú which is a Spanish-language program put together by Rey Yacolca Producciones in Perú. The interview has been uploaded to the SoFE youtube channel, with an English transcript of it at societyofepicurus.com. Please subscribe to our youtube channel!

We discussed the differences and similarities between Epicurean and Stoic philosophy, as well as the indigenous sumak kawsay wisdom tradition of South America. We also talked about the science of happiness, Epicurean therapy, and the importance of having values that are aligned with empirical evidence.

I recently also wrote Whose Pleasure? Whose Pain? Applying the Hedonic Calculus to Public Policy for The Humanist, a publication of the American Humanist Association. In the piece, I argue that hedonic calculus is an ideal method for ethical decision-making at the personal level, but that it does not necessarily work at the public policy level and that there are more intelligent ways for secular humanist philosophers to infuence public policy.

The piece was written as part of their May-June issue, which features a piece on the SMART therapy for recovery from alcoholism and addiction. SMART ("Self-Management and Recovery Training") is a fully non-religious alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous, which has been under fire recently for its lack of effectiveness, yet has served for many years to channel public and private funds into religious propaganda.
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Published on May 05, 2015 09:22 Tags: calculated, crespo, epicurus, hedonism, hiram, humanism, interview, philosophy, rational

March 8, 2015

Venta en smashwords

La traducción al castellano del libro Varios días en Atenas va a estar a la venta por 3.99 en smashwords durante el resto del mes de marzo. Hace un excelente regalo para toda persona que quiera estudiar la filosofía epicúrea y entender de que manera es diferente a otras tradiciones.
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Published on March 08, 2015 13:30 Tags: atenas, filosofía, libro

January 26, 2015

A Few Days in Athens: The Friends of Epicurus Edition

A Few Days in Athens: The Friends of Epicurus Edition is now available in English-language paperback from Amazon and in kindle version. This edition includes the review written for societyofepicurus.com as well as a study guide at the end of the novel.
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Published on January 26, 2015 11:13 Tags: book, epicureanism, epicurus, frances, humanism, humanist, naturalism, philosophy, review, wright

January 23, 2015

Varios días en Atenas / A Few Days in Athens now at amazon

Varios días en Atenas, la traducción al castellano de la novela de Frances Wright (con comentario introductorio y guía de estudio), está ya disponible en amazon.

The Spanish translation of A Few Days in Athens is now available from amazon.
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Published on January 23, 2015 15:22 Tags: atenas, epicureismo, epicuro, filosofia, wright